Business travel across the globe, and especially in India, has seen a significant surge since the abatement of the pandemic. The post-pandemic world has a very different feel to it, as technology has been adopted like never before. Zoom meetings have radically transformed how and why individuals travel for business. In the new normal, “bleisure” and “return to base” are business travel buzzwords.
Although the industry as a whole has recovered and is up by more than 70 per cent compared to 2019 estimates, the proportion of the market held by online travel management companies (TMCs) has expanded dramatically (nearly 30 per cent) since the Covid-19 pandemic.
Growth of corporate travel post-pandemic
Business travel was one of the last categories to recover from the pandemic, and it now looks to be under further pressure from economic uncertainty. Accelerating inflation, geopolitical concerns, and the possibility of a worldwide recession could be warnings that corporate travel may begin to drop. In a remarkable reversal, businesses are now inviting employees to company offices, and business travel has greatly exceeded its pre-pandemic levels.
Speaking of trends, Rikant Pittie, Co-founder, EaseMyTrip feels that business travellers want more adaptable rules and the flexibility to self-book in response to the increasing demand for non-traditional accommodations. “Majority of professionals schedule their travel outside of employer-approved channels as a consequence. Currently, it is also evident that facilitated by technology and shifting internal regulations, business travellers are taking longer, less standard trips and clutching new chances for bleisure and face-to-face interaction,” he said.
Pitti further added that employers and employees will need to collaborate in order to change business travel guidelines, as well as the purpose and structure of trips, to fit the requirements of a younger workforce that demands a new way to work and explore.
According to Sunil Gupta, MD & CEO, Avis India, a broad-based trend has emerged with an increasing number of corporate employees from across industries travelling frequently, individually or as groups. “While the smaller batches have not changed much in the last few years, the larger travel groups have surely grown in size, indicating an increased willingness to take up corporate travel on part of both, the employers, and the employees. While individual corporate travel is driven by the desire to connect once again with customers, clients and colleagues after a long hiatus, the large group corporate travel is being driven by MICE as well as off-sites for training, planning and team building,” Gupta stated.
Gupta further mentioned that the surge in airfares and hotel rates is not a deterrent for this section and the demand for both domestic travel as well as international travel is on the rapid rise. “Corporate travel will continue to grow strong in 2023 with more organisations opting for offsite activities and client meetings amid the fading Covid threat.”
Business travel outlook for 2023
In FY 2021, the corporate travel industry in India was estimated to have been worth USD 31.7 billion. According to projections made by experts, the market is expected to expand to USD 55.2 billion by FY 2027, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.1 per cent between FY 2022 and FY 2027.
Sharing his opinion, Surabh Juneja, Business Head, Paxes forecasted that domestic travel is expected to be on the rise in FY 2022; however, foreign travel may remain sluggish due to an impending economic downturn.
“As a result of global firms reducing their travel budgets and expenses, the worldwide travel sector will decline, and individuals will continue to use virtual meeting platforms; nevertheless, domestic travel and travel from India-based enterprises are expected to increase. The bloom of the online TMCs will have a remarkable increase in their market share. B-leisure travel as a category is expected to continue to expand as a trend among millennials and Gen Z travellers,” he mentioned.
Juneja also said that corporate entities would want systems that transfer the complete travel experience, including visa procedures and group reservations, online. “Furthermore, in a world where boundaries are blurred by technology, artificial intelligence and machine learning will be the future of business travel and can be integrated with virtual assistant apps to provide a personalised user experience,” he added.